Though there have been many books published about RAF Bomber Command missions over Europe, there have been few comparable volumes published covering the missions flown by their compatriots in the Mediterranean. Maurice 'Lee' Lihou was a pilot who flew two tours in 1944-45 in Vickers Wellington bombers. His OUT OF THE ITALIAN NIGHT volume, published in 2003 by Airlife Publishing, furnishes a rare look at a poorly-chronicled segment of the RAF air war over Europe.
OUT OF THE ITALIAN NIGHT was originally published in 1992 as IT'S DICEY FLYING WIMPYS. Loved by her crews, the rugged twin-engined bomber served throughout the war. Indeed Lihou's last mission, on 14 March 1945, was also the last Wimpy mission of the ETO air war. Lihou flew two tours, logging 49 missions with 37 and 40 Squadrons, 205 Group.
The RAF's air war in the Med was vastly different than that waged over Europe. Lihou's initial night missions might have seen a total force of 10-12 bombers dispatched versus the hundreds of bombers Arthur Harris was sending against German targets. Most of the opposition facing Lihou and other 205 Group aircrews in the Med came from flak, nightfighters being few in number. Attack altitudes were lower, multiple passes were often the norm and so on. Yet the Med air war could be just as deadly as on 6-7 July 1944 when 13 of 61 205 Group bombers were lost in one night.
Along with extensively describing his earlier RAF service and every mission flown, Lihou goes into much detail about the stresses he dealt with flying combat. OUT OF THE ITALIAN NIGHT offers a rare look into the mind of a young man who "presssed on" despite his inner demons.
Maurice Lihou's book is certainly a rara avis, a wonderfully-written, exceptionally detailed and brutally honest portrait of a bomber pilot at war. Highly recommended.